Communication Rehabilitation

by Matt Flanagan March 12th, 2021

Being digitally jaded is either a side effect of the pandemic, or the Pfizer vaccine. I'm excited to be trending out of isolation, but the adjustment back to normalcy will be substantial. The vast majority of my interactions over the past year have been done through a screen or in a text field I can edit and revise. While being onboarded back into society, I'm preparing for the challenges of taking live reps again.

I've already started to notice social second-order effects, beginning with a change in the pace and clarity of my writing. I spend so much time deciding what words to use now-a-days that after multiple rounds of edits and overthinking, I hardly sound like myself anymore. Writing has always been challenging for me. But now, choosing words while thinking out loud feels equally cumbersome. I realize how visceral my thoughts and feelings have become after not being forced to communicate them as often. Without these reps, conversations in a non-digital medium have seemed like a change of pace similar to the ramp from practice to game speed.

Like a stretch or movement pattern I've neglected, the signs of atrophy in my communication muscles are evident. Fatigue sets in early, and I'm more conscious about how sore I feel afterwards. I'm out of shape. The truth is, we've all missed out on reps over the past year. The challenging part will be learning how to acclimate to more frequent interactions with others. I'm hoping to rely on biomimicry for help with my communication rehabilitation.

A proprioceptive regime is commonly used in physical therapy to treat injury and muscular atrophy. Standing on the uncertain surface of that ball can help stimulate neural pathways to recruit more muscle fibers for a stronger contraction. They say neurons that fire together wire together. While the suite of remote tools is impressive, its impossible to replicate the "spiky yellow ball"-like level of stimulation that in-person events and experiences provide. The best exercise for retraining the communication muscle will be meeting new people and doing things together once again.

I need to hold myself accountable to the routine of stretching and doing the range of motion exercises that are uncomfortable. Anyone who has had experience with injury knows that everybody recovers differently, but I'm determined to get stronger. I hope by putting myself out there and trying to write more, I'm rebuilding better, because I feel stiff as a board and would like to be able to touch my toes again.

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